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" … seemingly, suddenly, self-licking ice cream cones."

The VP of HR called me into his office to discuss a troubling complaint he'd received following my last workshop. Two participants had taken umbrage at a metaphor I'd employed, insisting that it clearly demonstrated that I was racist. Pretty certain that I could not possibly be fairly characterized as racist and curious about where this conversation might go, I showed up, though I arrived wary. I'd gotten tangled up around misunderstood metaphors before and felt fairly certain that I understood where this conversation would go, for there's no counter-argument to anyone's firm conviction. There's also no way to fix this sort of past. I sat quietly as the VP failed to explain my error to me. I hardly mounted any defense. I knew before I showed up that I would not be asked back to deliver another workshop.

I permanently deleted that metaphor from my patter.
I remain uncertain how that metaphor ended up being interpreted as evidence that I was racist, but I'm not so clueless that I don't understand that I don't always get or need to know. Some people get their jollies discounting others, whatever the premise. Others seem to possess the linguistic superpower to sometimes step smack dab in the middle of something. I admit to possessing that superpower. The infraction always seems inadvertent to me and deliberate to others, for it's the nature of this sort of communication for neither end to meet. The result can't help but be a failure from every perspective, one which might, by mindful omission, be avoided in the future, but must remain unfixable in its past.

In a court of law, finding guilt often insists upon proof of intent, not so in the TwistedMetaphor realm. There, intent seems a given; to question intent is to question the questioner, not the utterer. Intent must remain inviolable as presumed for the disconnect to have even occurred. Nobody thinks of themselves as crying wolf, so wolves must be found. How much more genteel if only a more generous interpretation could emerge. It just can't. The old transactional analysis game of NIGYYSOB (Now I've Got You, You Son Of A Bitch!) ensues instead. The accused, inevitably guilty as charged, the accuser validated by merely making the charge. This world sometimes works like this.

I imagine myself more generous than this, that I would slow down enough that my galloping high horse might at least slow to a trot before trying to leap to some lofty conclusion, but I know that I'm just as culpable as the least of anyone else. I parse my world according to my particulars, not theirs, and I am just as apt as anyone to preconsciously twist some innocent metaphor into a more malevolent meaning. Everyone stumbles away no wiser for the collision, each secure within their narrow perspective, clueless and feeling smarter for it. Some wounded, others vindicated, each seemingly, suddenly, self-licking ice cream cones.

©2018 by David A. Schmaltz - all rights reserved

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